Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Choosing a Car for the Family

Choosing a family-friendly car is a challenge. The vehicle must be safe, modern, practical, fuel-efficient, feature-rich, affordable and reliable, and it must handle well. That kind of balance isn’t common.


Image Source: Kid Spot.com

Used vs. New
Families face the difficult decision of a used car versus a new one. The used car is less expensive, and generally, the insurance rates are lower too. The new car, on the other hand, is more reliable and fuel-efficient, and the modern features and accessories are more accessible.

Size
Another important consideration is size, large versus mid-sized or smaller. In the recent past, many North American families have been inclined to go large. In fact, the Kelley Blue Book (KBB) listed the Chevrolet Suburban as its top family vehicle for 2011. It’s a comfortable ride, extremely safe and it offers a huge amount of passenger and cargo space.

The downside, of course, is the low fuel mileage. The Honda Odyssey, which the KBB ranked second, provides a nice compromise. It’s similarly safe, and it sacrifices some cargo and passenger space in exchange for greater drivability and higher fuel performance. The Odyssey gets a remarkable 28 mpg on the highway while the Suburban only gets 21.

Crossovers and mid-size SUVs are also a popular option. A top choice in this segment is the Buick Enclave. Of any vehicle available, the Enclave has one of the highest safety ratings, from both the IIHS and government testing, and it comes with a 5-year/100K-mile powertrain warranty and a 4-year/50K-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. 

Although most top automobile ranking services agreed on the Enclave, the KBB chose the Chevrolet Traverse ahead of it, and as its third pick overall. The Traverse is a reasonably strong option, but in our assessment, it doesn’t stack up well against the Enclave. The Traverse is, on average, $7K cheaper though, and that was likely a significant factor in the KBB choice.

Mid-Size Family Car
Perhaps the most popular family-oriented segment of all is the sedan and other mid-sized cars. In this class, the KBB went with the Hyundai Sonata, its ninth pick overall. Other popular options include the Ford Fusion, the Volkswagen Passat and the Honda Accord. Our pick, however, is the Nissan Altima.

For a long time, Nissan excelled in sportier markets but fell behind in family-centric ones. The new Altima, however, has helped changed that, and both Nissan Canada and Nissan U.S. reported record numbers last year as more family-oriented consumers opted for the all-new Altima.

In fact, industry experts expect sales to be even higher in the coming year as word spreads and the model becomes more refined. One of the aspects we like best about the Altima is that it doesn’t sacrifice sportiness, especially in the coupe, just because it’s a mid-size family car. It has a lot of flair while still managing to deliver the safety, steering and quite ride that’s synonymous with this segment.


At all Nissan Canada and Nissan U.S. dealers, the Altima is available in three trims: 2.5, 2.5 S and 3.5 SR. The 2.5 is the base model with standard equipment, and it’s an excellent entry point for most families. It’s only available in the sedan body style, and it has 2.5L 4-cyclinder motor that delivers 175 horsepower and 32 mpg on the highway.



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